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ICNIRP Publishes Major RF Science Review:

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14 July 2009

A major international review of the science related to mobile telephony and health was published on 14 July 2009.

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation (ICNIRP) has published on its website a review of the scientific evidence concerning exposure to high frequency electromagnetic fields (including the radiofrequency fields used in mobile telephony). 

The ICNIRP review has concluded that:

  • “Results of epidemiological studies to date give no consistent or convincing evidence of a causal relation between RF exposure and any adverse health effect. On the other hand these studies have too many deficiencies to rule out an association.” 
  • “Whilst it is in principle impossible to disprove the possible existence of non-thermal interactions, the plausibility of various non-thermal mechanisms that have been proposed is very low.”
  • “The evidence from double-blind provocation studies suggests that subjective symptoms, such as headaches, that have been identified by some individuals as associated with RF exposure, whilst real enough to the individuals concerned, are not causally related to EMF exposure.”
  • “The experimental data do not suggest so far that children are more susceptible than adults to RF radiation, but few relevant studies have been conducted.”
  • “Although the likelihood is low that fields emanating from base stations would create a health hazard, because of their weakness, this possibility is nevertheless a concern for many people. To date no acceptable study on any outcome has been published on this.”

The review recognises that more research is needed to fill information gaps and recommends ongoing long-term population studies including better exposure assessment with an emphasis on children given the present lack of epidemiological data regarding them.

ICNIRP’s review of science will be part of the WHO’s risk assessment of high frequency electromagnetic fields and health expected to be completed within the next two years.

The review will form the basis for a thorough re-evaluation of ICNIRP’s science-based guidance on limiting exposure to electromagnetic fields such as those used in mobile telephony. In the meantime, ICNIRP has not proposed any changes to its existing RF public exposure guidelines which are used in the UK and many other countries.

Operators acknowledge that it is important to keep supporting high quality independent research in accordance with the WHO research agenda.  UK mobile phone network operators are supporting the UK Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR) which includes a long term study, COSMOS, on the use of mobile phones and health.

The review “Exposure to high frequency electromagnetic fields, biological effects
and health consequences (100 kHz-300 GHz)” is available from ICNIRP’s website as a pdf

61% of UK adults access the internet from mobiles

Mobile phones cannot work without a network of base stations (masts). There are approximately 52,500 base station sites (excluding microcells) in the UK. Only a third of these are large, free standing masts. A YouGov survey for MOA (Sept 2014) showed that nearly 8 out of 10 people recognise the link between masts and good mobile coverage. Mobile telecommunications are vital for the UK’s economic competitiveness and in promoting social inclusion. There are now 89.9 million mobile subscriptions in the UK. In Q1 2015 61 per cent of UK adults used their mobile phones for internet access. Tablet ownership is 54% of UK households.

No Established Health Effects

Mobile phones operate by using radio waves, similar to those that have been widely used for decades, for example in radio, TV and radar signals. A large number of studies over the last two decades have found no clear evidence of adverse health effects from the use of mobile phones or from phone masts.